Taking Time to Stretch

My newest habit is not so exciting.  I admit it.  But I need to do it.  I need to stretch everyday.  I am a typical type A personality.  I work a lot, I am always doing something and I think most people would describe me as being fairly intense.  I fought this for awhile.  The first time someone called me intense, I was shocked.  In my mind, I was really easy-going.  But over the last couple of years, I have come to terms with it.  I am not so easy-going.  I like things a certain way and I can be fairly demanding.  I like to think of it as part of my appeal although I am sure there are people who would disagree.

My intensity permeates my life. Including how I exercise.  I choose activities like long distance running, at least until I injured myself, step classes, spin classes weights and TRX.  I don’t do Yoga because, well, in my mind, it’s just not intense enough.  I know this isn’t true but I just can’t bring myself to do Yoga regularly.  I thought I could do Hot Yoga since that seemed more intense, but I don’t do that very often either.  I bought a 20 pass package last January with the intent to go every weekend.  I still have several classes left.

But I know I need to change my exercise habits.  As I am getting older, I am in a lot more pain.  I think it is a combination of driving a lot, being fairly high strung and vigorous exercise that leaves me stiff, inflexible and in pain.  So my next habit is to stretch.

I think one of the most important things to do when trying to incorporate changes into your life is to set yourself up for success.  So in my efforts to set myself up for success in this new routine, I am buying an exercise mat today for my bedroom.  I am also going to devise a 10-minute stretch routine that I can do everyday.  I have also given some thought as to when I can do this routine regularly and without excuses and I have come up with the perfect plan.  When I put my 7-year old to bed, he reads for awhile and then I sit in his room while he falls asleep.  I am going to do my stretch routine while he is reading.  It’s perfect.  I usually don’t do anything of consequence during this time anyway so it should work well.

In other news, my teeth are still brushed, I am still drinking water and often, I forget to turn on my smartphone in the morning.  Amazing!  The habits actually are slowly starting to change my life.

The Whisper Before the Scream….

My sister-in-law once told me that God whispers before he screams.  I don’t think you need to be religious to appreciate the message.  Often we are given signs-little nudges or indications that something is amiss or that something needs to change but we ignore them.  For some reason though, her words have stuck with me over the years and they have certainly played a big role in my first official habit.

It is not so much adding a habit as kicking a habit.  You see, I am an addict.  My phone is my lifeline.  I email, text, schedule, talk, browse and google nonstop.  At first, it was because I was starting my clinic and needed to be connected, especially since my clinic is in another city.  Then it was because we were renovating the house and I needed to stay on top of contractors, orders and deadlines.  The next thing you know, my smartphone has become an appendage.  I wake up and it’s the first thing I turn on.  I go to bed and it’s the last thing I turn off.  I check it non-stop.  I am the annoying friend that is always on her phone, the irritating daughter, sister and wife who is always distracted, the multitasking mother that can’t stop texting.   I always had excuses.  I have so much to do.  I am juggling so much.  I just need to send this message, make this call or quickly look this up.

Then I heard the whisper.   A couple of times, my son said, “Stop texting!”.  My immediate response was that I was trying to schedule a playdate, register for soccer or call the dentist.  An excuse to justify my behavior-but somewhere in my soul, it nagged me.

The whisper became louder.  I went to Evergreen Brickworks and lost my phone.  Ironically that was a day when I told myself I was going to put my phone away and focus on the time I had at the market with the boys. This was the day after two little boys were killed in a car accident in Parry Sound.  I looked at my children and appreciated them a little more, hugged them a little tighter and said a little prayer for the poor mother that had lost her children.  I told myself that I would be fine without my phone for a couple of hours and needed to focus on my children.

When I did look for my phone and realized it was gone, I was remarkably calm.  I have suffered enough loss in my life to recognize that there are worse things than losing my phone.  I left the boys with a friend and went hunting for it.  I never found it.  When I got back to the children, my friend had informed them that mommy had lost her phone.  My 5 year old’s eyes opened wide as he exclaimed “You lost your phone!  Oh my gosh Mummy!  That’s really bad right?  What are you going to do?”.  I looked at him and thought wow, there’s a problem when my 5-year old sees me as being so attached to an object.  It was very disconcerting.

Then the scream.   I ended up having to buy a new phone.  I left dinner with a friend after having just bought it and started downloading an app before I started driving.  I got to a stoplight and glanced at the phone to see if the app had finished downloading.  I didn’t push a button, I didn’t speak, nothing.  Just glanced at it.  Then I heard a banging on the window.  An older man was pounding on my window yelling, “Don’t do that!”.

Ok.  I get it.  I finally get it!

So here’s my first habit.  I will not touch my phone in the car.   I feel this is particularly important since I am in the car a lot.  I don’t text and drive but I certainly check my phone at the stop light or in traffic.  I also make calls on my Bluetooth, play music or am generally engaged with it in some capacity.   But now I have 2 young boys watching me.  I want to set a good example.  I don’t ever want them to text and drive or be otherwise distracted while driving.  How can I tell them not to do it if they grow up watching me on my phone in the car?  How can I tell them to put their phones down while I hold onto mine with a vise grip?

I also will not touch my phone after getting home with the boys after school.  I will put it away and not check it again until after they are happily tucked away in their beds.  I know it’s a cliché, but time is precious.  My boys deserve a few hours of my time that is uninterrupted by my phone.

This is the habit I want to kick.  I think it will be tough.  But I know it will be worth it.  I have heard the scream; it’s time for action. 

The Test Habits….

As a type-A personality, I wasn’t going to put myself out there without testing the waters first.  When I first had this idea to incorporate new habits into my life, it was back in August.  I wanted to see if this was a feasible idea and if I would actually be able to do this and stick to the new habits before going public.

So I decided to try out a couple “test” habits before sharing my ideas.  The first habit was a relatively easy one but when I told my husband about it, his initial reaction was “You are going to tell people about that?”  And my answer was “Yes.  It’s important to me and although some people will be grossed out, many mothers will totally get it”.

So what was the first habit?  It was to brush my teeth and wash my face every night before bed.  For many years, with two boys 2 years apart and immeasurable chaos in our lives, I was just counting my blessings to make it to bedtime with everyone intact.  I was exhausted.    Truth be told, most nights I didn’t even change my clothes before bed.  I would put on pajama pants but I would just wear the camisole that I put on most days under my shirt and fall into bed.  I was lucky though.  People always tell me I have great skin and the dentist always comments that it’s clear that I take good care of my teeth.  Little does he know.

But in the back of my head, I felt like my luck was going to run out.  If I didn’t start taking care of my skin and teeth, I was worried about aging prematurely and getting cavities.  Plus there is loads of research that shows that poor oral hygiene can lead to other health concerns, like heart disease.  So I started washing my face.  Nothing fancy.  Just a wash.  I am never going to be one of those women with a multi-step facial care ritual.  I also started brushing my teeth and flossing too!   I started this new habit on Aug 21 and I am happy to say that I have not missed a single day.  It doesn’t matter how exhausted I am anymore.  It has indeed become a firmly entrenched habit.

The second test habit had to do with water.  As a naturopath, I always tell my patients to drink half of their body weight in ounces.  So a 140-pound woman would drink 70 ounces of waters.  64 ounces is the equivalent to 2 liters so she’d need a little over 2 liters daily.  Now I am not going to tell you how much I am supposed to drink but suffice it to say that many days, I wasn’t getting enough.  I always got 1-2 liters in, but I wanted to make this a priority and get at least 2 liters.  I feel that the things we do everyday-eat, sleep, drink-are the places that the small changes will have the most impact.

I have to say that it’s hard for me to say whether or not I have truly succeeded at getting in my 2 plus liters of water.  With the first habit, it was easy to measure, I either did it or I didn’t but with this second habit, unless I measure and log every drink I take, it’s harder to tell.   But I have definitely been drinking more water and I am certainly making an effort everyday.  As I sit here at 7:30 in the morning, the first thing I did was make a coffee.  But while the coffee was brewing, I had a big glass of water.  I think that’s a good indication that things are moving in the right direction.

I also bought a 1.25 liter water bottle.  Two of those surpass my daily quota.

This will certainly make my success at this habit more measurable.

And you know what?  I noticed that since I started drinking more water, I crave less chocolate.  It might be a coincidence, but I’ll take it.

Today, I started my first “official” new habit.  It will be a tough one but the signs are evident that I need to do it.  Watch out for next week’s post.